Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween 2011: October 24

Fantastic Dinosaurs of the Movies (1990)
Unlike “Hollywood Dinosaurs,” this is a straight-up trailer compilation with no narration or anything. The tape starts with a short promotional video taking us inside Ray Harryhausen’s work shop and showing off early sketches for many of the monsters from “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.” The video also includes more then one lingering shot of starlet Kathryn Grant’s cleavage. So there’s that. The tape throws a much larger net then “Hollywood Dinosaurs” did as well, including a lot of trailers from non-dinosaur related movies. “Earth vs. The Spider,” “The Giant Claw,” “The Giant Gila Monster,” “20 Million Miles to Earth,” “Jason and the Argonauts,” the incredibly cheesy "Jack the Giant Killer," and a few other unrelated giant monster movies are tossed in for the heck of it. It’s all pretty entertaining stuff though I’ll admit the lack of coherence makes it better suited to background watching.

I don’t have too much else to say about this one, other then it throws in more obscure titles then “Hollywood Dinosaurs.” “Journey to the Beginning of Time,” “The Loch Ness Horror,” and the “The Crater Lake Monster” are ones I’ll admit I haven’t seen yet. This is also the third time this weekend I’ve seen the trailer for the Irwin Allen version of “The Lost World.” I haven’t seen that one either and the slurpasaur packed wonders it promises doesn’t exactly make me want to rush out and see it. I wonder what ever became of Frosty the Poodle? (6/10)

Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
I find Hammer horror is usually resistant to sociological readings, but there’s definitely something here. In the long prologue, a beggar wanders into a cruel nobleman’s castle, where he is humiliated before being “bought” and imprisoned in the castle dungeon. Years later, the mute daughter (Played by the gorgeous Yvonne Romain, with a plunging neckline.) of a castle servant is harassed and assaulted by the same nobleman before being locked up with the forgotten beggar. The rape, murder, and escape that follows is the origin for our werewolf protagonist. Later on, when Leon is a grown man, as he walks into town looking for work, an affluent man riding by in a carriage splatters him with mud. Similarly, a rich, well-dressed fop keeps Leon and his love, Carissa, separated. In the end, the lovers are kept apart by the spinning wheels of bureaucracy. The same system refuses to confront Leon’s lycanthropy, resulting in the werewolf’s climatic rampage through the town. Is it possible the film is saying that the rich, upper levels of society tend to treat the poor as if they were, *gasp*, animals? Though the metaphor seems to be forgotten once the film decides to focus on the werewolf attacks, there’s definitely a deliberate subtext here that you don’t usually find in Hammer’s films.

Any subtext werewolf movies usually have deal with puberty or uncontrollable lust. There’s some of that too. That the impetus of the werewolf’s birth is a sexual assault certainly doesn’t go unnoticed. Leon happens to be visiting a brothel when he first transforms into a werewolf. Most obviously, the cure for his lycanthropy is love… Good, clean, Christian love, though his relationship with Carissa is chaste only do to lack of time. It should be apparent by now that “Curse of the Werewolf” is not your typical werewolf movie. It’s not only the unusual origin of the curse that marks the difference. The film holds off on showing the werewolf make-up until the end, focusing more on the aftermath of his attacks.

Terence Fisher’s direction is more stylish then usual as well. There’s a few sweeping pans and, my favorite shot of the film, cuts from a swooping cloak to a wide shot of the tower’s courtyard. I love the final shot of a couple crying, isolated in the courtyard. I always really dug the werewolf make-up here. Classic it is, the Jack Pierce Lon Chaney make-up never really looked like a wolf. While it’s subtle and mostly involves a single forehead appliance and some fur, the werewolf design actually looks like a wolf. The performances are quite good as well. Oliver Reed isn’t all bluster like his performances usually are. He cries a lot too. In all seriousness, it’s a good performance. Clifford Evans and Hira Talfrey are also very good as Leon’s surrogate parents.

Overall, “Curse of the Werewolf” is one of my favorite Hammer films and one of their best productions in general. It’s a shame they never revisited the werewolf concept. (9/10)

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